Picking the Wrong Career

‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ – Gustave Flaubert

‘Been working every day and going good. Makes a hell of a dull life too.’ – Ernest Hemingway in a letter to Malcolm Cowley

Flaubert’s advice is now an oft-quoted maxim for writers, and it certainly helps to have a routine. A life that is made of early mornings, healthy food, exercise, a dedicated time for writing and the same for reading, and early bedtimes, is ideal for a writer’s productivity. I have been adhering to this routine for a while now and while I can attest to its wisdom, it goes against my nature. I hate routine. It’s anathema to me. I’m also someone who enjoys other people, having chats and craic and great company, feeling like I’m a part of the world. As a result, quiet early nights and no socialising is not my first choice, but it has to be done.

Sometimes I think I picked the wrong career. Not only am I a very social person, but I’m also an incredibly impatient person which clearly isn’t ideal when you’re facing into a long creative process. I wonder is writing a novel actually the longest creative process there is? You can make a movie, record an album, paint a picture or choreograph a ballet in less time than it takes to write a novel. From my own experience and talking to other writers, it would appear that between two-and-a-half and four years is about average. Of course there are exceptions like On The Road (first draft written in three weeks) or The Sun Also Rises (first draft written in two months), but for the rest of us it takes a lot longer than that.

Sometimes I ask myself why I’m still writing. The answer is twofold. Firstly because it’s not a career that I chose, it’s more of a compulsion. I have written in one form or another (poetry, songs, attempts at short stories, two novels) since my teens and I suppose even if I never get a book deal, I’ll still feel compelled to write for the rest of my life.

Secondly because it’s the best job I’ve ever had. The rest of the Hemingway quote above is, ‘But it is more fun than anything else…Do you suffer when you write? I don’t at all. Suffer like a bastard when don’t write, or just before, and feel empty and fucked out afterwards. But never feel as good as while writing.’ Amen to that Ernest!

Not Back Down – Acrobat

A few weeks ago I was asked by my friend Allen Doyle to be a part of a music video he was directing. I love collaborating with Al and was a guest on his radio show The Magic Number back in April. The video is for an Irish band called Acrobat and the single is called ‘Not Back Down’. Never having been in a music video before, I of course said yes. A week later I spent the day in Barberstown Castle with Acrobat, their mates and some great actors, having the absolute craic.

The video shows a gothic dinner party at a castle, where the host pours some suspicious looking liquid into people’s drinks, eventually turning his guests into reptiles. It was a fun shoot; we were dressed in amazing costumes, some people got to play with snakes, we drank wine and danced, and a fountain was set on fire! You can spot me towards the end of the video, dancing my ass off, and drinking some funny-tasting vino.

(Al also directed Acrobat’s first video for a single called ‘Follow You Down’. Check it out here – great performances from Jack Olohan and Sinead Watters.)

Acrobat’s next gig is on Saturday 4th October in Meeting House Square as part of Hard Working Class Heroes 2014, and you can buy ‘Not Back Down’ on iTunes.

The Multiverse offers a book recommendations service for your Christmas pressies!

I have always given books to friends and family at Christmas, and going to Hodges Figgis to do my Christmas book buy is a pleasure. I generally have an idea of the books I’m going to get for people – things that have occurred to me throughout the year – and I’m always excited to introduce someone to a book they’ll love. Plus supporting Irish businesses and Irish writers is obviously a cause close to my heart. Perhaps you’re also thinking of including some books in your present shopping. Maybe you already know exactly what you’re going to buy but on the off-chance you don’t, I have a couple of ideas.

I often review books on the site and if you’re looking for inspiration you could trawl through the archives and see what you find. But that’s a mammoth task and you have better things to do, I’m sure. You could also look over the book gift guides I posted last year, and in 2011 and 2009.

Or here’s another idea…

You could leave a comment below, or email me (address here), and ask me for specific recommendations. Perhaps your mother loved Maeve Binchy’s books and would like something similar to get stuck into. Or maybe your Dad doesn’t really read much (I think everyone likes to read; they just have to find the right book) but he loves restoring old cars, Irish history and cats (I’ll find something!). Or maybe you’ve fallen in love this year and you’d like to give your sweetheart a beautiful book (and of course, you’ll write a special note on the inside cover. This is partly why Kindles will never replace actual books.). Whoever the person, whatever your dilemma, I’ll do my best to sort it out.

This little kid is obviously not on my wavelength.

Lazy late-summer listening.

80% of the time in my professional life I play party tunes. When I’m DJing, I’m there because people want to dance so I play upbeat rock and alternative songs. Therefore when I’m at home I tend to listen to entirely different music: a lot of jazz and hip-hop, and chilled-out stuff so my ears can have a break.

So today I decided to put together some tunes I listen to at home. This is a chilled-out playlist – stuff to listen to in your car, or while you’re sunbathing, or when you’re having a glass of wine after work. Nothing too hectic, nothing that requires glowsticks, or lighters in the air, or any effort on your part at all really!

There are some oldies like Drinking in L.A. by Bran Van 3000 which reminds me of the summer of 1999, and Make it Wit Chu (2007) which is one of the sexiest songs ever (or maybe that’s just because I fancy Josh Homme). And of course there are some newer tunes, like Father John Misty’s (which I adooooore!) and Fairytale Lullaby which sounds like either music for a hippie love-in or a very sweet children’s lullaby (I’m opting for the latter).

Hope this fills a gap in your summer listening!

DJ Stories – Part Two

(Second in a sporadic series of Tales from Behind the Decks. Here’s the first one.)

Being a female DJ has its own set of unique issues and experiences, most of which I thought I’d come across having been DJing for almost ten years, however last week I had a new one. I was DJing at a silent disco where there were two DJs on stage; me and a guy. I was playing rock and alternative tunes and he was playing chart music and commercial dance. In the venue we were in, requests are a regular occurrence and I’m always happy to facilitate someone if I have what they’re looking for. People came up to the front of the stage to ask for tunes and both the male DJ and I noticed something really interesting; I was getting the requests for Rihanna and Beyonce and he was getting the requests for Guns and Roses and the Arctic Monkeys!

It seems that people were applying some sort of gender bias and thinking that because I was a woman I was naturally the one playing the chart stuff. It’s funny because if they’d stopped to look at us, our musical tastes were obvious from the way we dressed. I was head to foot in black and he was wearing trainers and a baseball cap, looking for all the world like a cool clubber! It’s interesting how people can form an opinion based on music alone and think that a woman is less likely to be the one rocking out. The lesson here is don’t judge a DJ by their gender!

siemens 350
January 2013

Dual careers: DJ slash writer.

My Dad asked me recently if I would still DJ when (I love his positivity) I get a publishing deal. Having thought about it, the answer is definitely yes for a number of reasons. Firstly, I would probably have to still DJ! Advances these days are usually small and certainly not enough to live on, therefore writers must supplement their income by way of reviewing, writing magazine articles, or any other opportunities that arise.

Secondly, writing is a very solitary job. Unlike people who work in an office and can interact with actual human beings every day, a writer spends their day alone, in front of a computer, often talking to themselves, and inventing lives for imaginary people. When it gets to early evening and I’ve spent a day writing, I often crave human company. I also live alone which doesn’t help matters! DJing is the perfect job for me as it gets me out of the house, I get to have chats and laughs with lots of people and get paid!

Thirdly, you see a lot from behind the decks and that can inform my writing. I’ll often come home after a gig and jot down incidents I’ve seen on the dancefloor, characters that fascinate me or comments that I’ve overheard. It can be a useful resource for my imagination.

The ever interesting Robert McCrum wrote an article on this subject last year in the Guardian which details some of the jobs writers have had in tandem with their writing careers. Fascinating stuff.

DJ Stories – Part One

(I told you I’d have some new content ideas for 2013! This is the first in what will be a fairly sporadic series of tales from behind the decks.)

Last Monday, aside from being New Year’s Eve, marks the last time I will ever tell a cab driver that I’m a DJ. Usually when asked if I’m heading out for the night I just say that I’m going to work. When you tell people you’re a DJ it starts a conversation I’ve had so many times that I don’t want to have it ever again. However on Monday being filled with seasonal good cheer I responded honestly to his questions and told him I was a DJ going to play at a New Year’s party in Dundrum. On hearing this he decided to give me a test. I’m not even remotely joking.

He had a stack of CDs in the car and decided to put them on and give me five points if I knew what the song was from the intro, three points if it took me until the vocal to guess the track and one point if I didn’t guess it until the chorus. My usual trick for dissuading cab drivers from conversation is monosyllabic answers while staring resolutely out the window. It’s not that I’m a thundering bitch, it’s just that my ideal cab journey takes place in silence; no radio, no mindless chit chat. However this guy was delighted with himself and his ingenuity, and so I had no choice except to take part in his version of Name That Tune.

The drive from my house to Dundrum takes about 25 minutes and it was more work than the actual gig that followed. I successfully guessed Huey Lewis and The News, Rod Stuart, Stevie Winwood and Deep Purple, but fell down on the Four Tops (so to speak) and hadn’t a clue about Garth Brooks (of which I’m rather proud). As we pulled up outside the venue in Dundrum, he looked at me ruefully in the rear view and said “well, you really seem to know your stuff.” I passed his test but it had somehow taken the wind out of his sails and he seemed defeated.

I’m not sure why. Perhaps he had envisaged some kind of smackdown where he proved that not only did he know his way around the mean streets of the Dublin suburbs but he also possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of all music ever recorded. Anyway, not wanting to end the journey on a bad note I said “ah but you really had me there with Garth Brooks!” He cheered up, smiled and said “yeah, I did, didn’t I?” Yes you did Mr Taxi Driver, yes you did.

DJing at Harvey Nichols Great Gatsby party NYE 2012
DJing at Harvey Nichols Great Gatsby party NYE 2012